FARGO, N.D. — A west central North Dakota man was sentenced Friday in federal court to 24 years in federal prison for possessing and receiving child pornography, the longest sentence in the state's history for this type of crime. This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the North Dakota Parole and Probation Services (NDPPS), and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (NDBCI).
Michael Lynn Wieland, 32, of Hazen, N.D., a prior convicted sex offender, was sentenced for possessing materials that sexually exploited minors (two counts), and receiving materials that sexually exploited minors (five counts).
Wieland's 24 years' imprisonment will be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Wieland was also ordered to pay $2,500 restitution and a $700 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund.
"The 24-year sentence in this case is appropriate given defendant Wieland's status as a multiple child pornography offender," said U.S. Attorney Timothy Purdon in Bismarck. "In North Dakota stiff sentences like these await those who collect Internet images of the victimization of children."
"Anyone who sexually exploits children will learn that HSI and our law enforcement partners will hold them accountable for their despicable actions," said Mike Feinberg, special agent in charge of HSI Bloomington. "Neither distance nor the anonymity of cyberspace will hide them from justice. Our HSI special agents work tirelessly to investigate child predators who victimize the most vulnerable members of our society."
Wieland pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to possessing more than 300,000 images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
In 2008, while he was moving from his Grand Forks, N.D., residence to his parents' home in Hazen, law enforcement authorities from HSI, Grand Forks Police Department and NDPPS executed a search warrant at Wieland's Grand Forks residence. They were acting on a tip from one of Wieland's neighbors. During the search authorities discovered a computer containing suspected child pornography. At the time the search warrant was executed, Wieland was still on probation for a prior child pornography conviction.
Following the search in Grand Forks, Wieland completed the move to Hazen, N.D. Upon arriving, Wieland's probation officer immediately conducted a probationary search of his new residence and discovered additional electronic media containing even more suspected child pornography.
Wieland's probation was immediately revoked and he was sentenced to return to the state penitentiary. In the meantime, Wieland's electronic media was forensically examined by the NDBCI. The examination of the electronic media seized in both searches revealed more than 315,000 images depicting the graphic sexual abuse of children, including infants and prepubescent girls.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.